June 19th, 2012What is Food Justice?by Joseph Pearce
I've been sent a list of questions by a journalist about the so-called "food justice" movement. Here are my responses:
1) Do you have a theory for why ‘food justice’ has become so prominent in the media lately?
I think it’s necessary to distinguish between food and fads. The media goes through phases in which certain issues become topical for a time. Insofar as the media is drawing attention to real issues that require real justice, we should be pleased.
2) Is there a Catholic concept of ‘food justice’?
The Church’s social teaching, especially since Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, has represented a consistently coherent voice against the dehumanizing effects of industrialism and consumerism. The industrialization and globalization of agriculture is the cause of many of the problems related to “food justice”. Any so-called solution to the issue of “food justice”, which does not deal with the anthropocentrism and philosophical materialism that underpins the hedonism that fuels unsustainable agriculture will fail to solve the problems and will in fact contribute to the exacerbation of the problem by the suggestion of false and fallacious solutions to the problem.
3) Do you think ‘food justice’, like its corollary ‘social justice’, is just another euphemism for wealth/resource redistribution?
Justice is always good but its employment by those with a radical agenda who are using it as a slogan to further objectives inimical to true justice is a long-standing problem. Let’s not forget that some of the greatest tyrannies in human history have swept to power with the fine sounding slogans. The guillotine, the gas chamber and the Gulag were all built in the name of “justice”.
4) Food justice advocates seem to be proponents of subsidiarity! They talk about buying from local farmers, growing one’s own fruits and vegetables. Are they really honest proponents? Why or why not?
Let’s not throw the healthy baby out with the bathwater! Buying from local farmers is good, so is the growing of one’s own fruit and vegetables. Those who grow food locally and those who advocate the purchasing of food locally are helping to build a healthier and more sustainable future. Let’s support the local economy at the expense of the globalist juggernaut.
5) Can there be a concept of ‘food justice’ when there is already the corporal work of mercy of feeding the hungry? Has justice supplanted mercy?
Ethical considerations should impact every aspect of our lives, including the food that we buy and eat. The choices that we make when spending our money have an impact on our neighbours. We should be aware of issues of justice and sustainability. It is only necessary to feed the hungry when the hungry can no longer feed themselves. It is far better to enable the hungry to feed themselves than to feed them ourselves. This is why sustainability and justice are always important. Justice can never trump mercy without becoming injustice!
6) Do food justice advocates see churches and charities as competition then?
My family is part of an organic food cooperative, which is run by a good Catholic family. We buy locally produced food. We are part of the solution, not part of the problem. This transcends anything that other “food justice advocates” might think.
7) Some Christian denominations, like Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ, have official food justice ministries. What do you think of this development?
It depends on whether such initiatives are really informed by a Christian understanding of the human person and his role in Creation or whether they are merely jumping on a faddish bandwagon for the sake of falling in line with the Zeitgeist. If the former, I welcome such initiatives; if the latter, it will not achieve justice and will serve to weaken those denominations.
8) Why has subsidiarity become a neglected topic among Catholics, except for Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wisconsin) bringing it up?
I think subsidiarity is a neglected topic amongst some Catholics, but it has not been neglected by the Holy Father, nor is it neglected by a growing number of Catholics in the United States. As with abortion and contraception, cafeteria Catholics pick and choose, thereby becoming less Catholic, whereas true Catholics speak and act in accordance with the teaching of the Magisterium. Subsidiarity is an integral part of being a Catholic. It is neglected at our spiritual peril!
9) Could food justice be a teachable moment for Catholics and others to learn about what justice is? About the relationship between government and individuals?
Catholics understood “food justice” before it became faddish. I would see it as an opportunity for Catholics to evangelize the “food justice” movement, rather than a moment in which we can learn from them. We know more about these issues on the deepest level!
10) What would Schumacher think of food justice?
Schumacher practiced and preached food justice. He was an advocate of sustainability in agriculture and of organic farming. He was a leading member of the Soil Association.
11) What would GK Chesterton think of food justice?
As a distributist, Chesterton understood the need to act locally! His essay “Reflections on a Rotten Apple” shows what true “food justice” entails. If modern advocates of “food justice” read more Chesterton they would learn a great deal and would become far happier people, and Catholics!
12) How is the current ‘food justice’ movement different from the food movements of the ‘70s?
The “food justice” movement today covers a multitude of sins and virtues. It is not one voice but many voices. Some of those voices are sane, others are quite frankly mad! The “food justice” movement in the ‘70s was polluted by the hedonism of the hippies, the movement today is polluted by the hedonism of the “social progressive”. The “redding” of the Greens is not healthy! Let’s remember, however, that justice is good, even though it is abused in the way that communists and radicals employ the word. Let’s not turn our backs on justice because radicals claim the word for themselves. Their “justice” always leads to iniquity. Justice and Peace are ultimately possible through the Person of Jesus Christ!